An attorney representing the relatives of Daniel Brumley, who was shot four times by a Fort Worth police officer on Jan. 17, said the autopsy report raises more questions about what happened that night. Brumley’s relatives and a handful of Northside activists have been at odds with the police over a range of issues, including the length of time the investigation is taking, the dearth of information being shared by police, and the manner in which the arresting officer handled the situation (“Blood on Whose Hands?” Feb. 25, 2015). Two bullets, according to the autopsy, entered Brumley’s back. A third hit him in his side and traveled in a downward motion. And a shot to his head entered near the left temple and passed through the right jaw, indicating the shot was fired in a downward motion.
Police officials have said the officer was behind Brumley when the suspect attacked him with a knife. Police haven’t named the officer involved in the shooting, but an official said the officer is small in stature. Brumley, the 25-year-old father of seven children, stood well over 6 feet tall.
Almost three months have passed since the shooting in the Diamond Oaks neighborhood of North Fort Worth. Brumley’s relatives are waiting for police to explain what happened and to address witness statements that seem to contradict police statements. Two witnesses said they saw a police officer lead a man to the back of a police car just before the shots rang out. Afterward, the officer acted suspiciously, including pacing nervously until backup police arrived, at which time he dropped to the ground and writhed in pain, the witnesses said.
Police and city officials are not releasing public information about the shooting, including the autopsy report, while the investigation is ongoing. However, a county official released the autopsy to Brumley’s mother, Jessica Castillo, who shared it with Fort Worth Weekly.
The Brumley family’s lawyer, Eloy Sepulveda, questioned why the police officer didn’t search Brumley or wait for a backup unit to arrive after learning there was a warrant for Brumley’s arrest.
Sepulveda visited Larry Moore, the Tarrant County district attorney’s criminal division chief, last week to express concerns about the report.
“I wanted to find out if the DA’s office had received the case of Brumley’s death and, if so, where they were in their investigation and evaluation of the case,” Sepulveda said.
Moore knew of other shootings involving police, such as the one in Grapevine in February, but said he hadn’t heard about the Brumley shooting, Sepulveda recalled.
“He assured me he would keep me abreast of it and how the investigation was going,” Sepulveda said.
Moore looked into the case, which is still under investigation.
“I’m not sure when we will get it,” Moore said. “It depends on how much info there is out there to gather.”
He and other administrators under new DA Sharen Wilson will be pushing to process cases in an efficient and expeditious manner, he said. Still, there is no official timeline.
“Every case is individual and fact-specific, and there may be issues on a particular case that I’m not aware of,” he said.
The Brumley shooting occurred at about 4 a.m. after he dropped off a friend at her house. He allegedly rolled through a stop sign a block away near Northeast 36th Street while heading back to his mother’s house in West Fort Worth. Police said a canine officer patrolling with a police dog in the backseat saw the traffic violation and stopped Brumley. The officer collected his driver’s license, saw he was wanted for warrants related to unpaid traffic tickets and child support, and removed Brumley from his car to take him into custody, police said.
“Brumley was armed with a knife and attacked the officer with violent and distinct lethal intent, stabbing the officer several times,” police Sgt. William Hix said. “The officer determined in a matter of seconds that his life was in jeopardy and responded to that threat with the only reasonable force option that was available. This force option to shoot [Brumley] was predicated on Brumley’s actions. The officer sustained stab wounds and was transported to a local hospital for treatment of those injuries.”
The officer was reportedly treated and released.
Sepulveda said the number of shots fired and the directions the bullets traveled are troublesome.
“We could speculate on how that happened,” he said. “I told [Moore] I’d like to know how the officer explained that.”
The attorney also questioned the officer’s tactics.
“I read [police] reports everyday,” Sepulveda said. “These officers, once they got a confirmed warrant, they call for backup and wait for backup to show up if they know they’re going to have to pull a guy out of the car. Another thing, as soon as they pull a guy out of the car they pat him down. According to the witnesses, that didn’t happen. This officer was incompetent or didn’t know what he was doing.”
Hix said the officer followed protocol.
Brumley’s relatives say he never carried a knife and had never been violent with police despite several arrests over the years. A witness said he saw the police officer’s gun lying in the street after the shooting but didn’t see a knife. Later, he saw a knife lying next to the gun.
The autopsy report shows Brumley had an abrasion on his left forehead, left upper cheek, and left lower back and contusions on his right knee and left leg, as well as deep cuts on his right fingers.
“Normally that would indicate a defensive move,” Sepulveda said of the cuts on Brumley’s fingers. “The person who winds up with a cut like that is grabbing a knife, and the blade portion of the knife is being thrust against him. It cut all four fingers in a horizontal direction.”
The autopsy showed Brumley tested positive for methamphetamine. The woman he had been with for six or seven hours prior to the shooting said Brumley had one alcoholic drink, did not do any drugs, and showed no signs of intoxication. Brumley texted the woman within minutes of dropping her off to tell her he’d been stopped by police.
Brumley parked under a streetlight near H.M. Moore Elementary School. Witnesses said the scene was well lit except toward the back of the patrol car.
“If he had patted him down when he got out of the car, he would have found any weapon he might have had,” Sepulveda said. “Both witnesses say [Brumley] got out of the car and was told to walk to the back, and the officer followed him. He walked him to his patrol car, and you wonder what he was going to do to him. You’d think he was going to put him in his patrol car, but he couldn’t do that … because he had a [police] dog in the back. They walked past the door.”
The crime scene indicated the shooting occurred near the back end of the police car.
Sepulveda, who has worked as an attorney on the North Side since 1978, said he’d heard many times in recent years that police are heavy-handed.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories in my office about people being abused by police,” he said. “This is not surprising to me. I tend to give it credibility when I hear it. When there is a case like this, nothing surprises me.”
Relatives of Northside shooting victims have met with community activists to discuss their concerns. Dep. Chief Charlie Ramirez attended a meeting and verbally clashed with several people who claimed the police department covered up for abusive officers (“Piling on Trouble,” March 4, 2015). The next day, police officers went to the home of Jesse Urias, a Northside man who lives alone, despite being partially mentally incapacitated, on North Houston Street. His friend and landlord, Willie Goodwin, lives nearby and helps Urias as needed.
Police officers, attempting to serve a warrant on a suspect, knocked on Urias’ door. Urias told them he lived alone and had never heard of the suspect. He said police called him a liar, cursed at him, broke his door, and entered his home without permission. Goodwin hustled over and calmed down the situation. Ramirez visited Urias and vowed to look into the situation. The Weekly has asked for the results of Ramirez’ investigation several times but has received no update.